- The Washington Times - Friday, April 5, 2002

We have good news for saltwater fans: Croaker fishing has started.

Ken Lamb, who runs the Tackle Box store in Lexington Park (St. Mary's County, Md.), says, "Spring is here, and the croakers have arrived early." One of Lamb's customers, Jason Lamela, caught several "hardheads," as Marylanders call them, from the Chaptico Wharf In St. Mary's County.

Other anglers on the wharf hooked at least 20 more. George Quade of Quade's Store in Bushwood, Md., says he caught six croakers Monday close to the Bushwood Pier, one of them a 17-incher. Some of the pier regulars had good luck with the hardheads as well.

These fish now will begin to show up in steadily increasing numbers from the mouth of the Potomac clear up to the Route 301 bridge and the Port Tobacco River; also in the Patuxent River around Solomons and the lower Rappahannock River from Deltaville to Moratico.

A double-hook bottom rig with just enough sinker to hold it on the bottom is best. Best baits are pieces of bloodworm, squid or clam snouts.

If it's hickory shad you like, maybe even a handful of the larger white shad, get down to the Potomac River at Fletcher's Boat House (off Canal Road) where Ray Fletcher says, "We have plenty of hickory shad, even some of the bigger white shad, and chunky white perch are showing up in bigger numbers." The Fletchers have rental boats, bait and lures, and they are happy to provide the latest news about the fish. Call them at 202/244-0461.

Shad action also is good in the Fredericksburg, Va., portions of the Rappahannock River. If you get there by daybreak and cast shad darts into the rock pools above or just below the Route 1 bridge, you'll score on hickory and white shad. When the sun climbs high, the fishing usually stops, but in the tidal parts of the river shoreline, accessible from the city's Old Mill Park, chances are good that you'll catch tasty white perch or catfish.

As far as bass anglers are concerned, Potomac River guide Andy Andrzejewski (301/932-1509) says cooler night temperatures have sent the bass from the shallows into adjacent, deeper layers of water. Crankbaits will turn up some fine keepers, but the guide says a red-shad Berkley ribworm or a Mann's Sting Ray grub in avocado or shrimp colors will do the job. Yes, this fishing pro dabs Smelly Jelly on his lures.

One of the best fish stories of the week belongs to Upper Marlboro's Jett Thacker, who said, "You're not going to believe this. I fished the general Spoils area and caught a 7½-pound bass on a gold LuckyCraft crankbait. I weighed it on a digital scale and then let it go. Shortly thereafter, I felt something else shaking that lure. It was a catfish of about four pounds who had a Hottentot crankbait embedded near its eye, and my lure snagged the Hottentot. I landed the cat and freed it of all the hardware."

Now that's a decent fish report.

And there was local scuttlebutt this week that somebody caught a 9-pound bass in the Mattawoman Creek, but no one can verify it. To be sure, there are some 9-pound largemouths in the Potomac, but they are few and far between. The typical weight of an adult Potomac largemouth bass is around two pounds; four-pounders are practically considered trophies; six- and seven-pounders are big enough for anglers to pick up a telephone so they can tell their local newspaper's fishing writer about it.

On the subject of big fish that chase little ones, the Chesapeake Bay trophy rockfish season will open April 20 with only one fish per day of at least 28 inches permitted. Expect the two-rockfish-per day season for 18-inchers and above to start in mid-May, not June 1 as in years past.

If it's big lakes you prefer to cast lures into, Lake Anna, west of Fredericksburg, Va., can be productive for bass hounds using crankbaits, plastics, pig 'n' jigs or slow-rolled spinnerbaits. Flooded brush piles, submerged wood or rocks all can turn up fine bass.

At the two biggest lakes that straddle the Virginia/North Carolina line, Virginia's Gaston and Kerr, bass fishing has been good around boat dock pilings, rip-rap rocks or lake points. Rockfish have been very active around Kerr Lake's Grassy Creek. Jerkbaits, Sassy Shads, live bait all of it can turn on a striper. However, the most reliable fishing in either lake belongs to the crappies that take small jigs or live minnows in brush piles, along dock pilings or bridge abutments.

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